Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has been told he will making a major mistake by appointing Bruno Fernandes as the club’s next captain – with Graeme Souness launching into a spectacular destruction of the Portuguese star.
The Red Devils have enjoyed an excellent first season under the command of Ten Hag. Under his guidance, they have already ended their six-year trophy drought in the Carabao Cup. And another piece of silverware could soon follow if they can get the better of Manchester City in the FA Cup final.
Most importantly, though, United are also closing in on a return to the Champions League. They will need a positive result though on Thursday night away to Brighton with Liverpool emerging from the pack as their closest competition for a top-four finish.
Leading into the summer, Ten Hag will be looking at ways to further strengthen his squad. Indeed, he is strongly reported to be looking to sign a new No 9, with Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen and Randal Kolo Muani among those being considered.
But he also wants to strengthen his defensive options too. And reports on Wednesday claimed United are in the mix to sign a talented Sporting Lisbon star who just so happens to share the same agent as Fernandes.
But there are other options too for the Dutchman to explore. He also reportedly has interest in Napoli’s Kim Min-jae, while he continues to be linked with a move for Ajax defender Jurrien Timber.
Should Ten Hag be successful in his quest to strengthen his defence, it will likely spell the end for Harry Maguire.
Souness tells Ten Hag that Bruno Fernandes is not captaincy material
The troubled United club captain has fallen down the pecking order this season, starting just seven times in the Premier League.
And with his position almost becoming untenable, a parting of ways looks likely this summer.
As a result, Ten Hag will need to consider naming a new club captain in his place. David De Gea is one such option with the goalkeeper donning the armband on numerous occasions this season.
However, with his future at the club still uncertain, it is Fernandes who is emerging as the likely recipient.
Souness, though, reckons Ten Hag will be making a grave error handing the honour to the 28-year-old.
Pointing to United’s 7-0 hammering at Liverpool, the Scot, speaking to William Hill, feels Fernandes can show an ‘appalling attitude’.
“Bruno Fernandes is obviously not a leader, it’s as plain as the nose on the end of your face. His attitude when they went 3-0 down at Liverpool was appalling. You certainly would not want to be in the trenches with him.
“When you become a captain of a football team it’s about setting an example on the pitch and off it. To have a successful football club, you need good senior players and professionals. I look at myself when I walked through the door in Liverpool, how I changed in the seven years I was there, and what I was like when I left. I wasn’t the best player when I walked through the door, but I learned from some very serious football players, and seven years later when I become a senior, I like to think that I passed that information on.”
Ten Hag a victim of ‘modern management’ with United star
The Liverpool great, who this week ended his long association with Sky Sports, continued his strong stance.
“In the case of Bruno, you’ll see him be a star when you’re on top of the opposition and on the front foot, and he can be a real talent, but he showed a side to him that day at Anfield which was very unattractive. Erik ten Hag has then chosen to overlook it. He knows going forward that Bruno will win him games and score goals. But he’ll think, the next time he comes up against a really difficult situation, is he going to go missing? I think he already knows the answer to that.
“I think the fact that Erik ten Hag backed Bruno up is another example of modern management. The tail wags the dog in football these days. There’s only one club in the country where that doesn’t happen and that’s Manchester City. There, the manager is all-powerful, and the players respect him.
“City right now have the best group of players I’ve ever known in my 50 years in the English game. There are players in there that lead from the front. You only actually ever need one to lead from the front and the rest will pile in behind. When they make a substitution, other than with Ederson, De Bruyne and Haaland, it’s a like-for-like in terms of quality.
“The best players are often the ones that you don’t have to spend time on, you just guide them. And you don’t really have to have any harsh words with them. Part of the reason they are top players is because they realise when you should be training harder and what you should be doing on a match day. No one needs to tell you that, so in that respect the manager has an easier ride.”